Benny Greb The Language of Drumming [Import]
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A revolutionary addition to drum education, this DVD presents the method created and used by internationally-acclaimed drummer Benny Greb to develop his awe-inspiring creativity, musicality and technique. It features explanations and demonstrations of how Greb's 24-character rhythmic alphabet can be used to develop timing, technique, dynamic control and speed even the traditional drum rudiments covering hands and feet, with and without a practice pad, and the full drumset. Also includes a comprehensive archive of printable PDF charts and exercises, additional drum solos, performances with percussionist Pete Lockett and the Benny Greb Brass Band and more. Running time: 3 hours, 12 minutes.
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However, you really do need to know the basics pretty well. Reading music is not necessary, but would be very helpful.
WHO THIS DVD IS FOR:
Drummers who are stuck! You don't know how to make your drumming better and are stuck on an intermediate level. This DVD opens up an endless number of complex rhythms in a way that's easy to understand, but at times, hard to apply.
Beautiful, funny, smart, and very helpful.
Benny Greb's alphabet system is a very comprehensive approach. He codifies 24 "letters" which represent all the rhythmic possibilities in music. What it shows is that in a majority of all music (rock, classical, jazz, world music, etc.), a lot of the same rhythmic material is used. Hundreds of years, encompassing millions of pieces, mainly rely on these 24 rhythms. He even challenges you to take a piece of music from classical repertoire, and point out the "letters" in that piece.
Back to the system. Like learning language, he starts with a basic understanding of the letters, and the sound they make. You start without drums, or sticks; you just clap the letters, providing a good mental workout. Then, at the snare drum, you practice rhythmic accuracy, dynamics, rudiments, and sticking exercises. Then, you move to the drum set, and apply the letters to a different limb, giving you a four-way coordination workout.
Beyond that, he talks about soloing in a more musical way, thinking of making sentences, and other materials.
Before this, I had barely heard of Benny Greb. According to another reviewer, his playing credits aren't very vast. I say, So what? And there is indeed something very "New Breed" about this approach. However, the New Breed didn't address several aspects of this DVD, like snare technique, or soloing ideas.
This system, and this DVD in general, amalgamate several methods from the past, and present them in a very gradual, comprehensive approach, that applies to beginning students, all the way through professional players. Plus, there's a printable PDF booklet of like 60 pages! Bonus, there's three german guys in lederhosen singing and playing accordion at various spots. The german guys don't help the system at all, but I find it humorous.
Benny Greb has created something unique in the way of teaching "rudiments". In fact, his method is so unique some may even argue that he's not teaching "rudiments", but of course he is. But he teaches them in a style that is clearly oriented toward language which the title of this product promises. In fact, is it true that he doesn't teach "rudiments" in their standard form, but as he points out, all of the elements that he teaches can be used to build whatever "rudiment" you can dream up. He just breaks it down into a more fundamental alphabet of beats based on the various ways that beats can be grouped.
Perhaps before I go further I should explain a little bit about myself. I'm only just starting to learn to play a drum set, rather late in life. I've already purchased quite a few of Tommy Igoe's videos on Groove Essentials and "Great Hands for a lifetime" which I highly recommend for raw beginners. Tommy does indeed teach the standard rudiment forms in great detail. I was looking for something that might take it to the next level, like showing how to apply the rudiments to grooves. I can't really say that Benny Greb's video does that exactly, but he does give a completely different method of looking at timing and working with basic beats.
I would say that Greb's Language of Drummer is really tailored for drummers who have already learned the rudiments and basically want to sharpen their timing skills and add vocabulary to their basic rudiments. Because like Greb points out, when you look at basic beats as an alphabet there is no rudiment you won't be able to play. So it's more versatile in that sense. He prepares you for more artistic creativity in the long haul.
He goes through the alphabet many times using many different styles and tempos. If you actually follow along by the time you've gone through all these exercises you will definitely know your musical 'beat alphabet'. He also teaches it leading with the right hand, then the left hand, and even on the bass drum and with the left foot on the hi-hat. So if you master everything he actually teaches you will have gained a lot of limb independence to be sure. And that's just on the first DVD disc.
On the second DVD he takes you further into the drum set creating entire words and phrases using odd and compound meters. If you learn all that you'll be a pro as far as I'm concerned.
Finally, he speaks to musical artistry and goes into some detail about how to listen to music, and what to listen for specifically, and how to tune into various parts of a musical composition. I really enjoyed that part because a large part of why I bought a drum set in the first place is to improve my rhythmic musicality so I found the latter part of the second DVD to be quite enlightening, and I'm looking forward to applying some of the techniques he teaches to my own musical compositions. Not just on the drums, but for all the instruments I play and write for.
There are some weird scenes on his video. I don't think I'll be playing the drums using plastic bottles, or using an egg whisk as a drum stick. He was getting a little too 'creative' for my tastes in places. I understand his intention but I think those spots would have been better filled by just showing some examples of using things like woodblocks, sambago bells, cowbells, or other drum accessories. In fact, I wish he had included woodblocks since I have a pair on my drum set. I guess the fact that he played on a log in the first DVD will have to suffice as a 'woodblock'.
Summary in short:
If you're a raw beginner looking for detailed instructions I'd recommend Tommy Igoe's "Groove Essentials" and "Great Hands for a Lifetime". But if you're already playing and you're looking to express more artistic creativity and refine your timing, then Greb's "The Language of Drumming" might just be the ticket.
This video is going to change my life for sure. I've only had it for a week, and I am happily learning and playing the rudiments (not my most favorite part of my practices). The "rhythmic alphabet" is a brilliant concept that is SO simple and easy to remember. Assigning words to odd groupings is a ridiculously simple concept, but is REALLY helpful. The exercize he gives using your voice and clapping is awesome... now I can practice drums while I'm in the check-out line, waiting at the doctor's office or stuck in traffic. The concepts in the video literally give you unlimited amount of ideas to draw upon.
For the seasoned drummer, you may not consider this DVD groundbreaking, but I guarantee you it will help you to become more creative and a better player. For the beginner/intermediate student, it will take some of the mystery out of drumming.